How Judgment works ~

Judgment is a sly and wicked beast.

Here’s how judgment works on the Camino.
It works with a simple innocent question:

Where did you start from?

With that one question, you put judgment into train.
Oh, you started from Sarria did you?
(Meaning, you did the minimum walking required to get your Compostela)

Immediately you find yourself judging that person.
You’re not a true pilgrim, you say to yourself.
I started at St Jean Pied de Port.
I’ve walked further than you.
I’m better than you.

Or –

Bloody hell, you started in St. Petersburg?
Are you serious?
That’s gotta be like, five thousand ks or something, no?
You’re a shitload better pilgrim than me!

The Camino is a great place to shed judgment. For starters, most pilgrims are stripped of those material things that might prompt judgment.

You meet a pilgrim on the track and you are denied information about where they live – castle/mansion/free-standing house/semi-detached house/townhouse/unit/rented/owned/back seat of their car.

Or the kind of car they might drive – Bentley/Mercedes/Tesla/Kia/Kombi-van/junkheap aka shitbox.

And you can’t judge pilgrims by their accessories.

Women don’t often wear jewellery as a rule, and men tend to leave their Rolexes or their Philippe Pateks at home. Most pilgrims wear the same kind of clobber. Some might go upmarket and wear Jack Wolfskin or Arc’teryx, some might have bought all their gear from Decathlon, the big European discount store. But by and large you’ve got very little to judge people on.

It’s hard to judge pilgrims based on the usual criteria we use to judge. But given that we just love to judge, we’re then left to use other more nuanced means, such as the above innocent question.

One of my favourites was: How much does your backpack weigh? I could make very serious judgements about a person based on their response.

If their backpack was way in excess of 10% of their body weight I would classify them as a novice pilgrim. If their backpack was way less than 10% of their body weight I would classify them as an idiot. If they told me to fuck off I’d respectfully nod and fuck off.

At the heart of judgment is separation.
And a belief that you are inherently better than the person you’re judging.

You know more, you have more, you have better style and taste, you have superior skills, in one way or another you are better than the person you’re judging.

And in determining this, you feel better about yourself.

I try not to judge anymore.
It’s difficult, but I’ve learned the difference between judgment and discernment.

Judgment is a hierarchical mechanism. With the person judging being higher up the hierarchical scale than the person being judged.

Discernment is a preferential mechanism. What do you prefer? What’s appropriate and what’s not? There’s no separation in discernment.

We can’t take judgment out of our system. We need judgment to make cogent choices. But instead of using judgment to separate, we can use discernment to determine what’s a better fit, without the need to condemn or vilify or ridicule.

I can go to a movie and I can come out and say I like that movie or I don’t like that movie and I can choose to say what I say using either judgment or discernment.

These days I try and use discernment.
Except when it comes to Marvel movies…

Camino changes – hotels…

It’s been over a year now since I walked the Camino Frances, and the changes that I experienced during the walk are still within me. Here’s an example:

My wife Jennifer and I are traveling through the US at the moment. It’s a massive road trip – already we’ve covered more than 3,000mls in ten days.

In the past, whenever I’ve traveled, I’ve always stayed in good digs. And by good, I don’t mean expensive good, I mean reasonably priced good.

One of the things that terrified me before I walked the Camino was staying in albergues. The notion of dorm styled accommodation didn’t sit well with me. I liked my privacy, my creature comforts, and my security. I liked my own bathroom. I knew I’d have none of these sleeping in an albergue.

My first night in St. Jean Pied de Port was spent in an albergue. And I continued to sleep in albergues for the majority of the walk. I liked the camaraderie, the friendships formed, the discussions over communal dinners – and I liked the feeling of stepping outside my normal pattern of behaviour. Doing something different. Challenging myself.

Yes I stayed in a Parador once – and I loved it. I was sore and exhausted, and I needed it. And I stayed in hotels now and again too, when I needed privacy and space.

I’m not one to extoll the virtues of albergues because I believe it makes the pilgrimage more pure. I think that’s a complete nonsense. Whether you sleep in Paradors or Church cloisters, it makes no difference. You’re still a pilgrim.

Cut back to: My US road trip.

A couple of nights ago Jennifer and I stayed in a forty buck a night motel in a small sleepy town in Mountain Home, Idaho. It was called the Highlander Motel, and I know I would not have stayed there if I hadn’t walked the Camino.

ws motel.2

There was a Best Western a mile away – costing $129 a night. Before the Camino, I would have stayed there, no question.

But I drove in to the Highlander, walked into reception, and was given a boisterously warm welcome by the manager, an Indian fellow by the name of Jalan Patel. I asked him where in India he came from – he told me a village north of Bombay – and it turned out I’d once driven through that village.

It must have been very strange for him to be talking to an Australian in Idaho about his ancestral home in Bombay. For me, it was rewarding to be greeted so warmly, and to find a personal connection with the fellow.

I asked to see a room and he gave me a key.

The room was fine. There was no reason not to stay there, other than it was cheap. And that thought – that fear – defines one of my changes post Camino.

In my work as a filmmaker, I’ve had to stay in some dives, let me tell you. Early in my career when I was making documentaries, I traveled all around Australia, all around the world, and the work took me to some very remote places where there was little or no choice as to where I slept.

I remember once sleeping in shearers quarters in the Outback, with a huge red-belly black snake under the bed. It lived there. I had to be careful where I put my feet when I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I discovered the red-belly black snake often shifted to the cooler bathroom at night.

The other side of the coin is that in my life as a movie director, I’ve stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. For two months, Warner Bros put me up in a five star hotel on Park Avenue in New York. The suite had four bathrooms, all with marble floors and gold taps. And I was there by myself. Try as I might, I couldn’t use all four bathrooms at the same time.

The motel room in Mountain Home Idaho had everything I needed:

  • Large bed with comfy mattress – CHECK


  • Bedside tables with lamps – CHECK

bedside lamp

  • Power outlet by bed – CHECK

power outlet

  • Table and chairs – CHECK

table and chairs

  • TV (not plasma screen, but hey…) – CHECK


  • Clock on wall – CHECK

clock on wall

  • Fridge and Microwave – CHECK

fridge and microwave

  • Air-conditioner – CHECK

air conditioner

  • Hanging space with hangers too – CHECK

hanging space

  • Eco-friendly lights – CHECK


  • Washbasin with nice colours – CHECK

wash basin

  • Bath with nice colours – CHECK


  • Shower with shower curtain – CHECK


  • Additional toilet paper – CHECK

extra toilet roll

  • Free wifi, that worked – CHECK

wifi sign

  • Vending machine by front door – CHECK

vending machine

  • Free parking – CHECK

ws motel

The swimming pool was not really suitable for swimming, unless you were a frog or a mosquito larva.


The grounds needed tending, admittedly –


But in a corner for some inexplicable reason there was a patch of green grass complete with sprinkler.

grass with sprinkler

And I liked the signage out front.


As I was about to leave, I swapped cricket stories with Mr. Patel who was upstairs collecting the linen from the rooms that had checked out.

Mr. Patel

The Camino has taught me that there’s something wonderful in simplicity, and thrift.

The Highlander Motel didn’t have four bathrooms with marble floors. It didn’t have gold taps. But it had a firm bed with clean sheets, it had free wifi that worked and was fast, it had good bedside light and power outlets where I didn’t have to shift a bed to plug in my laptop.

And it was $41 for the night, including taxes.

The way I looked at it, It was way better than some of the albergues I’d stayed in. It had everything I needed for a good night’s rest.

If I hadn’t walked the Camino, I would have stayed in the Best Western. I wouldn’t have met Mr. Patel, I wouldn’t have talked cricket, and I wouldn’t have had nearly as good a time…




Camino Portuguese 14 – my favourite pics

Here are the few shots that I took that I quite like.

They’re not coffee table book shots. I have a real problem taking those shots. I’m not good at that kind of photography.

The shots below are not meant to represent the Camino we just completed. They’re just odd little pics that I took along the way that speak to me, and probably to no-one else.

Bom du Jesus snapper Cyclist looking at factories Washing line Sign walking down stairs


Chairs on Camino

slippery slide

Steve posing Cranes girl with blue specs

chicken thru wire.3

man in pontevedra street freezer trio masked against wall

boy with cross in church

crossed legs




Camino Portuguese Day 13 – farewells pt1

Today was our last day together as a group.

church in late light

It was Easter Sunday, and some of the group went to Mass. Marie volunteered as a helper for the English Mass, and at the end of the service the Botafumerio was swung. Marie has a problem with crowds, which has kept her out of packed services, but today she overcame that fear and witnessed something she never thought she would ever see.

She was delighted.

We then walked to lunch, and we shot a group photo – this time with Steve included. (He wasn’t in the group shot yesterday.) The group showed their best side…

backside backside with Caterina's legs

And then their not-so-best side…

group shot.1

We had a terrific lunch at one of Santiago’s top restaurants, away from the tourist crowds and frequented by locals in the know.

Afterwards the girls wanted a shot just of themselves, which I objected to because I thought it was sexist, so I did my darnedest to mess the photo up.

girls shot.thru glass

(Glass half empty or glass half full?)

Begrudgingly, I then took a more considered photo.

girls shot.1

After lunch we said our farewells to Catarina. We gave her a group hug – she has been fantastic, and everyone adored her.

group hug with Catarina catarina crying catarina crying3

She felt very teary as she walked away, back to the van which she would then drive back to Mercedes in Porto.

catarina walking away catarina walking away shell

If ever we do another Portuguese tour, (and we’re considering another one in October,) then Catarina will be a part of it.

Tomorrow pretty much everyone leaves, except for Steve and Arlene, who are staying on an extra week. Jennifer and I fly out Tuesday for 10 days in Ireland.

I’ill write a series of posts over the next week or so, reflecting on the time we’ve had together. But just to say it’s been an extraordinary two weeks. We’ve formed friendships that will last a very long time, we’ve laughed so hard that we’ve almost needed resuscitation, we’ve stayed in some beautiful hotels in some gorgeous towns and eaten some truly wonderful meals, we’ve walked through some spectacular countryside, and some have had profound revelations about their lives.

They will go back home with a vastly different view of life.

This has not been a decadent five star jaunt – this has definitely been a spiritual journey. Yes we’ve stayed in some nice digs, and yes the van has been there for support when needed, but this has been a very real pilgrimage for everyone involved.


It hasn’t been an easy walk, and when we got our Compostelas yesterday there was a very real sense that we’d damn well earned it. There wasn’t one of us didn’t appreciate what it meant. We’d walked the Camino Portuguese.

From a personal point of view, I’ve had an extraordinary time. I’ve learnt so much from this wonderful bunch of people, and I’ve been humbled by them and inspired by them. I will remember these last two weeks as being a very very special part of my life.

To all those in the group – thank you so much. Thank you for taking the risk of coming along, thank you for trusting Jennifer and me, and most importantly thank you for being the wonderful human beings that you are.

You are the ones that have made this tour something so very memorable.

And we had fun, hey?

group shot

group shot wider


Mt. Misery – so happy to be back…

It’s been twelve months since I was last on Mt. Misery.

Just to explain – Mt. Misery is an aptly named mountain that rises sharply at the back of Mudgee, which is where I live. From my door it’s 4kms to the base of Mt. Misery – then it’s 4kms to the summit. So round trip, it’s 16kms.

The elevation from door to summit is about 650ms. And there are some sections which are damn steep. So it’s a great training hike for the Camino.

Last year, in preparation for the Camino Frances, in the 6 wks prior to departure I did Mt. Misery about 3 times a week. It stood me in good stead when I had to climb the Pyrenees.

Today was my first day back there since those training days twelve months ago. It was good to be back. And a lot has changed in those twelve months.

Firstly, I’m now wearing a complicated and very impressive looking knee brace, because I shot my knee to pieces on the Camino last year. The orthopaedic surgeon, after looking at my MRI, said it was a “miracle” I walked the Camino on that knee.

I’m also now using walking poles.

Last year I resolutely refused to use walking poles, until my knee gave out – and then I finally succumbed. I had to. I wouldn’t have finished my Camino if I hadn’t used those poles.

Today I climbed Mt. Misery and it seemed so much easier than last year. Because of the poles? Yes, I think they certainly helped.

But twelve months on, I’m a different person. I’m not necessarily fitter than I was a year ago. But my head is different. I think differently.

Last year I felt I had to push myself up that mountain, I had to do it fast and I had to keep my heart rate in it’s 75%-80% zone, to get my aerobic fitness up.

This year I don’t give a damn.

I now see walking as fun, not a goal which needs to be achieved.

I walked with my wife, Jennifer this morning.

That’s a first.

Jen walking Mt. Misery

Usually we don’t train together. She heads off in one direction, I head off in the other. She likes to go a different way every day – I like to go the same way every day, so that I can judge how I’m feeling by certain milestones.

And I like that I don’t have to think about where I’m going. I just walk on automatic pilot, so that my mind can wander into other more interesting areas –

But it was fun walking with Jennifer this morning. And when we came to the really step sections. I surged on ahead and she went up them at her own pace.

What training up Mt. Misery gives you is confidence. It’s a gnarly climb, there’s no doubt, but it gives you confidence during the Camino. You know you can handle whatever The Way throws at you.

Last year I found Mt. Misery miserable. This year, I’m finding it a joy.

That’s what’s changed in twelve months…

Bill Mt. Misery

Post Camino #13 – The Times they are a Changing…

There’s an interesting debate going on at the moment on one of the Camino forums –

An experienced pilgrim, who’s walked the Camino several times, has had some recent bad experiences, and she voiced these in a post. She complained that the Camino was different this year – there were many more people, and some were rude, thoughtless, and aggressive.

In the thread that followed, some blamed this on the popularity of the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, which has helped increase numbers. (I know from my experience that many people are walking the Camino because they’ve seen that film.)

Others have lamented the use of wifi, tablets and smartphones as being contributive to a breakdown of the “Camino spirit.” Some have suggested not walking the Camino Frances at all, and choosing another pilgrimage route.

They’ve disparaged what they call “tourigrinos” who see the Camino as nothing more than a cheap vacation. They walk short distances then take buses and taxis, they ship their backpack on ahead to the hotel that they’ve pre-booked, and they use iPads.

Folks, the times they are a changing…

What’s wrong with a popular film encouraging more people to walk the Camino? If the Camino is a transformative spiritual experience, why should it be restricted to just those select few “in the know?” Why shouldn’t as many people as possible experience the wonder of the Camino?

Okay, the infrastructure might have to play catch-up, but that pours more money into the Spanish economy that right now desperately needs it. And it supports the smaller towns and villages along The Way, those that aren’t on the routine stage stop-overs.

And what’s the problem with using wifi, iPads and smartphones? Hundreds of years ago before this technology, church leaders, heads of state, and merchants used pen and paper, riders and messengers to communicate. I’d hazard a guess that if they were walking the Camino today, they’d be using iPhones or Galaxies. And if they needed to catch a taxi or a train for a stretch, that’s what they’d do.

Cutting yourself off from communications doesn’t make you more of a “true” pilgrim. Not everyone is retired. Not everyone can go five weeks without staying in touch, whether it’s family, their business, or whether it’s simply to post a blog each day.

I have a friend, his name is Steve, and he’s walking the Camino at the moment. At the outset, he said he had no commitment to walk the Camino. Those were his words. I gave him encouragement, by posting on his blog. So did others. Today he posted a blog which was titled: I WALKED WITH GOD TODAY. 

Bloody hell. What a switch-around! This is the guy who wanted to give up after the first week. This is the guy who said he had no commitment to the pilgrimage.

This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been blogging. If he hadn’t had his iPad and wifi.

Of course the Camino is going to get more crowded, as more people discover that it can change your life. Should we be trying to restrict this to just “true” pilgrims?

I don’t think so.

Here is the Camino Forum thread –

Here is Steve’s blog –

Rosa by Canal 6